Neptune at Eastern Quadrature

1dec-neptune-east-quadrature   Thursday December 1st the position of the planet Neptune with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called Eastern Quadrature. Neptune is at a 90 degree angle from the Earth – think first quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Neptune follows the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Neptune rises after the Sun and sets after the Sun.

   Where is Neptune now? The 8th planet from the Sun is currently within the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer and has recently completed its retrograde motion (November 20th).
   Along with Neptune the 2.5-day young waxing crescent Moon and several other planets are above the horizon at sunset and later.   And it is at time like this I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how the ecliptic may be visualized as a line that more less connects the planets as this animated graphic shows.

   
   
   
   This is a 1 minute clip from a video I made showing Neptune and some of its moons as viewed from the Voyager 2 spacecraft. This clip is from a longer video of a tour of the solar system and was part of a live musical performance called “Orbit”. The performances were done in May 2011 at the Gottleib Planetarium in Science City at Union Station in Kansas City MO.

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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

ISS Flyover This Evening


   The ISS, International Space Station made an appearance over the southwestern horizon this evening. As this map from the Heavens-Above web site illustrates the path the ISS will follow – which it did. (see below)

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   Here is a stacked sequence of 30 pictures showing the path the ISS followed as well as Venus, Mars, and the stars of Capricornus the Sea Goat. All pictures were taken at: 18 mm; 2 sec.; ISO 1600; f3.5

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Thin Moon and Planets

   Wednesday evening November 30th a very thin less than 2-day old waxing crescent Moon will be just above the western horizon and near Saturn and Mercury. At the time of sunset, my local time of CST, the Moon will be about 1.4 days or somewhere around 30 hours old-young. While this is not a record for the youngest waxing crescent Moon seen with the naked eye it will nonetheless be an interesting challenge.
    The youngest Moon seen with the naked eye was seen by Stephen James O’Meara in May 1990 when he saw a waxing Moon that was only 15 hours, 32 minutes old.
   The planets Venus and Mars are further west from the Moon but within the next few days the waxing Moon will pass by them. Venus on the 2nd and Mars on the 4th.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

2016: Sun Enters Ophiuchus

ophiuchus   Tuesday, November 29th the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion and into the constellation of Ophiuchus the Healer. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.

ophiuchus-scorpion   Ophiuchus is the 13th constellation of the zodiac (Astronomical) but does not appear in the astrological zodiac nor in the astrology column found in many newspapers. A constellation of either zodiac is defined the same way using the ecliptic path. If the ecliptic passes through a constellation boundary then that constellation is a zodiac constellation. In the graphics I use the ecliptic path clearly crosses across the boundary for the constellation Ophiuchus the Healer.

   Ophiuchus is described in a mythology story as a healer. In one story following a mortal fight between Orion and Scorpius the Scorpion Ophiuchus kills the scorpion by stepping on it; extracts the venom from the scorpion; and then uses it to bring Orion back to life.
cadeuces   In Ophiuchus’s hands he is holding a long snake, the 2-part constellation of Serpens – Serpens Cauda (tail of the snake) and Serpens Caput (head of the snake). There are many stories about Ophiuchus and the snake including one where this is the origin of the symbol for medicine, the caduceus. However the caduceus is used primarily in the United States as the symbol for medicine, and is depicted as 2 snakes wrapped around a staff with wings. rodIf there is a connection with a medical symbol then it should be with the Rod of Asclepius, a staff with one snake.
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

2016 Martian Winter Solstice

A Martian Year

A Martian Year – at One Earth Month Intervals

   Monday November 28th is the winter solstice on the planet Mars as the planet transitions from autumn to winter during its 684 Earth day orbit around the Sun. Seasons on Mars are marked by the planet’s heliocentric longitude coordinates using the position of Mars along its orbit around the Sun. Each seasonal start/ending point is 90 degrees apart, but because of its elliptical-shaped orbit each Martian season is of varying lengths.

   I’m not exactly sure why this particular date is used but by international agreement astronomers have selected 11 April, 1955 as 0 degrees for year 1 of this Martian calendar. What this means is that on Monday November 28th, Earth time, it is the start of winter for year 33 using the aforementioned calendar system.

Year 33
0 degrees — Spring Equinox — June 18 2015
90 degrees — Summer solstice — January 03 2016
180 degrees — Fall Equinox — July 04 2016
270 degrees — Winter Solstice — November 28 2016
Year 34
0 degrees — Spring Equinox — May 05 2017
90 degrees — Summer solstice — November 20 2017
180 degrees — Fall Equinox — May 20 2018
270 degrees — Winter Solstice — October 16 2018

mars-capricornus-ani
   On the evening of Monday November 28th the planet Mars will be over the southwestern horizon at sunset and Mars will set a couple of hours later. Mars is within the constellation of Capricornus the Sea Goat.

   Learn a little (or a lot) more about the exploration of Mars at the NASA Journey to Mars web site.

Here is approximately 3 minutes worth of Mars from the Orbit performance.

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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

November Moon at Apogee

27nov-apogee_moon Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Sunday November 27th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.87 Earth diameters (406,554 km or 252,621 miles) from the Earth.
   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*

*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   The nearly new Moon, a 27.5-day old thin waning crescent Moon, rises about 2 hours before the Sun. This may be an opportunity to set a record for viewing the oldest Moon seen with the naked eye. The youngest Moon seen with the naked eye was seen by Stephen James O’Meara in May 1990 when he saw a waxing Moon that was only 15 hours, 32 minutes old.
   New Moon happens on the 29th at 12:18 UT (6:18 am CST).

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

Moon In With Conjunction Jupiter


   Friday Morning November 25th the 26-day old waning crescent Moon will be within 2o from the planet Jupiter, and a few degrees from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   This conjunction between the Moon and Jupiter is the 3rd month that a conjunction between the two, and this one will be the last one for a while, at least involving a waning crescent Moon.

   Last month I was able to catch the Moon and Jupiter as they rose over my school.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Venus and A Comet


   Wednesday evening November 23rd the inner planet Venus will pass within about 0.1o from Comet 45P Honda-Markos-Pajdusakova. However seeing the comet may be a challenge given how close Venus will be and the great difference in apparent magnitudes.

venus-comet-tele    Venus has an apparent magnitude of -4.1; the comet is 13.35; nearby star Nunki is 2.0, and close to Venus is a 5th, and a 6th magnitude star.

   Seeing the comet may not be possible even with a telescope as this simulated view through a 25mm eyepiece on a 6″ reflector suggests. However a camera with the right settings may be able to capture some of the reflected light from the comet.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Sun Enters Scorpius-2016

   Tuesday November 22nd the Sun, in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Libra the Scales and into the constellation of Scorpius the Scorpion. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

ISS This Morning

   This morning the International Space Station, ISS, made a short but sweet appearance when it popped into view just west from the ‘Little Dog’ star Procyon. It’s 3-minute path carried past Procyon and then down toward the southeastern horizon passing the star Alphard in the constellation Hydra the Snake. The last quarter Moon was near the star Regulus in Leo the Lion, and as an added there was an Iridium Satellite rising up from the southern horizon.
   This is a composite of 39 pictures stacked together. Camera was set to ISO 1600; F5.6; 3.2 seconds; 18mm.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.